If you’ve not yet taken steps to prepare for hurricane season, there’s no better time than the present. This year we’ve had 21 tropical cyclones, 20 tropical storms, 8 hurricanes and one major hurricane (as I write this), and there’s likely to be many more in the months to come. Being prepared is a smart idea, especially as this year has been the second most active hurricane season on record. It doesn’t take much now, and you’ll thank me when the next storm hits and you’re able to survive in style.
Clear the trees now
When I was a kid we had a branch come down on the roof of our garage, and my father has almost religiously drilled into me the need to keep trees cut back if they are near any structures. Get your ladder out and trim everything back, so there's less falling debris that can potentially damage your windows and home when the storm front hits.
Secure your yard
If there’s a chance it’ll blow away, get destroyed, or damage anything else in your yard, ensure its secured before it’s too late. We disassemble the kids play equipment, and even drain and pack away our above ground pool, while all the outdoor furniture gets locked in the shed. Oh, and make sure you’ve enough room in your garage to park your cars.
Get backup power
It goes without saying that the power will go out. You need a generator and plenty of fuel to keep your lights on, and more importantly keep everything in your freezers frozen and your fridge cold. It’s comforting for your kids to have power for their devices, especially when the wind is howling outside and everyone is hunkering down to ride out the storm.
Get backup lights
Even with a generator it’s a good idea to have plenty of flashlights, so everyone in the family can have their own and you’ve still got backups just in case. While we’re on the subject remember to pack two or three sets of batteries for these as well, so you can keep them running if the storm keeps the power off for more than just a day or two.
Remember to stay warm
When the grid is down you’re still going to need a way to stay warm. Consider portable gas heaters (with adequate ventilation), or whatever other option you have. We’ve got a small fireplace and plenty of wood for this exact purpose, and a cupboard full of thick blankets, sleeping bags and winter gear we can use to keep warm.
Block the windows
Without storm shutters your best bet is to screw plywood to your window frames to stop the high winds from blowing these out, and consider installing proper entry doors and garage doors that are designed for extreme storm conditions. Taping the windows alone is a myth that doesn’t work, and if you’re relying on this you’ll be unpleasantly surprised.
Get ropes and tarps
If you do happen to have a window break, or another breach in your house, being able to “plug” the hole with a tied down tarp will help keep the storm outside from ruining everything in your home. Plastic sheeting and duct tape might be enough, but I’ve also got large polyethylene tarps and ropes in case I need something stronger tied down.
Store more food
Cans and dry food are important, but I’d also recommend a large chest freezer packed with frozen meats. When big storms come in they can disrupt supply chains and make it impossible to get your hands on quality products to feed your family. Eating tin after tin of baked beans won’t win you any favors, so stock up now on the right food.
Store more water
Again, it seems contradictory that you’ll need to store water for a hurricane, but much of the rain and floodwaters will be contaminated and undrinkable. Buy stackable plastic containers for proper storage, and fill these well in advance of the storm. You’ll want at least a gallon of water per person per day, and aim for at least a months’ supply of water.
Pack bug out bags
It’s hard to know if evacuation will be needed, but being prepared to go at a moment’s notice is a smart idea. I won’t dive into everything you should have in your kit, (that’s a subject for a whole other post), just ensure you’ve got enough supplies in there to survive 72 hours on the road in storm conditions, with plenty of wet-weather gear.
Plan the evacuation
Speaking of bugging out, you should think on your bug-out plans, and have a detailed route in mind (along with detours or alternate routes), to take your family somewhere safe should your home no longer be the best place to stay during the storm. Keeping the gas tank full is important too, but I also keep an extra couple of cans of fuel so we can drive even further.
Listen to the updates
Finally, and this is key. You need to stay connected to the latest weather reports and ensure you know what’s happening up to the minute so you can respond as conditions change. A hand-cranked radio is your best bet for this, and while it won’t let you communicate, you’ll at least be able to follow the news so an increase in the storms severity doesn’t catch you off-guard.
Riding out a storm isn’t for the faint hearted, but with the right preparations you’ll set yourself up for success in keeping your family and your home safe. Though I will say this. Mother nature is a beast, and deserves to be treated with all due respect. If the storm is getting out of control, remember your home and belongings can be replaced. What matters most is keeping your family safe, so make the hard call and get out of dodge. Live to fight another day.